One of the most rewarding things about working with someone like Olive is we inevitably get to know each other. That’s the nature of the learning process; you chat and discover those apparently insignificant things that somehow knit themselves together to form the fabric of a shared experience. It’s a similar dynamic to the conversations that occur at the hairdresser or barbershop. Through the magic of common purpose, spaces can transform the mundane into the meaningful.
On one occasion, Olive told us how, for years, she would keep an eye on the adverts for flights in the newspaper. Whenever she spotted a bargain she would book and go visit her one remaining sibling, a sister in America. It was something she shared quite casually. For us it was like the 12 strikes of Big Ben ringing in the New Year when she looked down curiously at the smartphone nestling in the palm of her hand, and asked, “so will I be able to check for flights on this?”
The Familiar and the New
Right there and then she had revealed the first of many reasons she would come to benefit from being digitally upskilled. We say “first of many” because we would soon learn that Olive’s sister had recently been admitted to a care home in South Carolina where she was also learning to use WhatsApp and Facebook.
It also turns out that when those newspaper ads for the flights stopped, so did Sparky’s daily walks. Or at least they became less frequent. The travel agent in question made headline news as it fell victim to the raging battle between the familiar and the new. Namely, the tangible bricks and mortar of our beloved high streets and the amorphous cyber forces of the digital rage.
When We Move, Our Friends Move Too
All this at the same time that Olive’s arthritis suddenly became more acute, and she was finding it increasingly difficult to get out and about. Those walks were, Olive tells us ruefully, Sparky’s favourite part of the day.
We can’t know how access to digital services will change an individual’s life; everyone’s story is unique. What is equally true is that if we can help someone, we should do it. So our next “battle” is to work with Olive to sort out Sparky’s daily walks. Afterall, Sparky is her best friend and when we move, our friends move too.